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Confident of victory, the Coalition – the formal alliance of centre-right parties in Australia – announced one week before the official date of federal elections in Australia that a new Colombo plan would be launched in order to provide funding for overseas studies of Australian students in the Asia-Pacific region.
According to the Coalition’s announcement, the new Colombo plan would provide AUD 100 million (EUR 69.3 million) of funding for a period of five years, ensuring hence financial support for around 300 Australian students every year to study in Asian countries. Moreover it has been proffered that funding would be revisited as demand for participation in the new Colombo plan grew. Scholarships would be awarded to undergraduate students under 22 years enrolled at an Australian university. The ‘original’ Colombo plan was implemented between the 1950s and 1980s and – somehow comparable to the American Fulbright and British Chevening scholarship schemes – was intended to allow potential future leaders from the Asian-Pacific region to study in Australia. More than 40 000 prospective future leaders coming from the region benefited from this higher education plan, facilitating thus internationalisation of higher education and allowing Australia to increase its ‘soft power’ status.
Currently Australian students are eligible to receive funding for overseas studies in Asia within the AsiaBound Grants programme. The new Colombo plan, however, has “has the potential to transform Australia-Asia Pacific relations” as stated by Chief Executive of Universities Australia, Belinda Robinson. The new Colombo plan “will not only benefit the student but will demonstrate Australia's commitment and help to cement Australia's place within the fastest growing region in the world.” According to Tony Abbott, new Prime Minister of Australia, the new Colombo Plan would help Australia to be more engaged with the Asia-Pacific region and would ensure Australia to be “a truly Asia literate country.”
Now, with the victory in the bag it remains to be seen how and when the Coalition government will take measures to turn its announcement into action.Universities Australia media release The Coalition media release Tony Abbott Speech